The sun is shining, it’s warm outside, and you’ve been out for a walk or playground visit. When is it time to offer water to a baby?
Newborns to three months: No water for young babies. Breastmilk or properly mixed formula offers the right balance of fluids needed for hydration and thirst, even when it’s hot out.
Four to six months: At this stage, water isn’t necessary but also isn’t dangerous in small amounts. Some pediatricians suggest offering an ounce or two of water in a bottle or cup during hot weather, while others advise sticking to breastmilk or formula only. Bottled breastmilk or formula should not be diluted in order to offer additional water.
Around five to seven months: Midway into a baby’s first year, introducing some water in a cup for practice is a fun learning activity, especially when the weather is warm, since baby will likely end up wearing some of the water! At this stage, water is really just for fun and practice – most of their hydration comes from their breastmilk or formula and additional fluids aren’t necessary. Pureed fruits and vegetables are also high in water content and add to baby’s fluid intake once “solid” foods are introduced.
Introducing the Cup
With baby in an upright position, offer her a small spouted cup of water. Use a smaller sized sippy cup (4-6 ounces) which is easier for tiny hands to hold and fill the cup at least half-way with water, so she won’t need to tilt her head and the cup all the back in order to learn to drink. Expect some coughing, spluttering, and squirting of water as your baby learns to coordinate drinking from a cup. You can also offer sips from an open cup with help. It may take a baby a few days or weeks to catch on, but most enjoy trying. If your baby is having a hard time learning to drink from a cup, try removing the “non-spill valve” temporarily, so that she doesn’t need to suck as hard to get the water out, or try a different style of sippy cup.
Water or Juice?
Water – just water. Water is the best and healthiest drink for children and adults. Develop the taste for water from early on, and hold off giving sweet drinks like juice, punch and soda. Juice, even diluted fruit juice, is essentially sugar-water and bathes the teeth with sugar. Juice should be limited to 4 to six ounces a day if used at all. A good approach may be to use only water to put in sippy cups for daytime use, and limit juice to be served at the table during meals, to practice using a straw or open cup. Juice can be diluted with water to half-strength: 2 ounces of juice and 2 ounces of water, for example. This method removes the expectation of sweet drinks (and empty calories) throughout the day, and prevents the unpleasant discovery of a moldy juice cup under the sofa or car seat!
Nancy Holtzman RN IBCLC CPN Nancy has spent the past 20 years supporting expecting and new families around the transition to parenthood. She is a maternal infant specialist, board certified lactation consultant and board certified pediatric nurse. She speaks and writes for a national audience about breastfeeding, infant development and baby sleep.
She is the founder of the Great Beginnings New Mothers Group series which has “graduated” well over 12,000 new moms nationally and as a Clinical Co-Founder of Isis Parenting, her classes and webinars have helped thousands of families across the US and across the globe.
Nancy lives in Boston and San Francisco with her husband and rescued Bichon Frise, and is the mom of two kids in college. Find her tweeting all about babies at @nancyholtzman